Chickens Used for Food

Chickens are arguably the most abused animals on the planet. In the United States, approximately 9 billion chickens are killed for their flesh each year, and 305 million hens are used for their eggs. The vast majority of these animals spend their lives in total confinement—from the moment they hatch until the day they are killed.

More chickens are raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined, yet not a single federal law protects them from abuse—even though most Americans say that they would support such a law.

Chicks – Every year in the United States, 9 billion chickens raised for their flesh and 305 million chickens raised for their eggs begin their lives when they hatch along with thousands of other chicks inside giant incubators. Only a few days after birth, they’re crammed into shipping crates and sent to factory farms. They will never meet their parents.
Broiler Sheds — With tens of thousands of chicks packed into each building, the sheds become increasingly crowded as the animals grow larger. Chickens often have to walk on top of one another—and over the bodies of others who have died—to get to food and water. Chickens function best in small flocks with fewer than 20 individuals, which allows each bird to find his or her spot in the pecking order. In crowded groups of tens of thousands, however, no such social order is possible, and in their frustration, chickens peck at one another, causing injury and death.
Mortality — Many chickens on factory farms get sick and die because of the cramped and filthy conditions. Instead of giving birds more space and a cleaner living area, farmers mix large quantities of antibiotics into the birds’ feed in an attempt to stave off disease, but many of the birds still die. The filth and bacterial contamination of factory farms and slaughterhouses even finds its way onto consumers’ plates: A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that 87 percent of chicken carcasses are contaminated with E. coli bacteria.
Egg Industry — Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry because they don’t lay eggs and they’re too small to be used for flesh, so every year, 200 million of them are tossed into trash bags to suffocate or are thrown—while still alive—into high-speed grinders called “macerators.”
Battery Cages — Like all chickens raised for eggs, these hens have had large portions of their sensitive beaks cut off, and they’ll spend their entire lives in a filthy, cramped wire cage. Each hen has an area smaller than a sheet of notebook paper in which to stand and doesn’t have enough space to spread even one wing. The cages are stacked on top of one another, so excrement from hens in higher cages often falls on those below. Ammonia and the stench of feces hang heavy in the air, and disease is rampant in these filthy, cramped conditions.
Manure Pits — Hens are kept in cages suspended above enormous manure pits. Most farms rarely clean the pits, so the excrement builds up in the barns, causing skin infections and respiratory diseases.

Chickens are inquisitive, interesting animals who are as intelligent as mammals such as cats, dogs, and even some primates. They are very social and like to spend their days together, scratching for food, taking dust baths, roosting in trees, and lying in the sun.

But chickens raised on factory farms each year in the U.S. never have the chance to do anything that’s natural or important to them. A baby chick on a factory farm will never be allowed contact with his or her parents, let alone be raised by them. These chickens are deprived of the chance to take dust baths, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs, breathe fresh air, roost in trees, and build nests.

Chickens raised for their flesh, called “broilers” by the chicken industry, spend their entire lives in filthy sheds with tens of thousands of other birds, where intense crowding and confinement lead to outbreaks of disease. They’re bred and drugged to grow so large so quickly that their legs and organs can’t keep up, making heart attacks, organ failure, and crippling leg deformities common. Many become crippled under their own weight and eventually die because they can’t reach the water nozzles. When they are only 6 or 7 weeks old, they’re crammed into cages and trucked to slaughter.

Birds exploited for their eggs, called “laying hens” by the industry, are crammed together inside wire cages where they don’t even have enough room to spread their wings. Because the hens are crammed so closely together, these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The birds have part of their sensitive beaks cut off so that they won’t peck each other out of frustration created by the unnatural confinement. After their bodies are exhausted and their egg production drops, they are shipped to slaughter, generally to be turned into chicken soup or cat or dog food because their flesh is too bruised and battered to be used for much else.

Because the male chicks of egg-laying breeder hens are unable to lay eggs and are not bred to produce excessive flesh for the meat industry, they are killed. Every year, 200 million of these young birds are ground up alive or tossed into bags to suffocate.

Chickens are slammed into small crates and trucked to the slaughterhouse through all weather extremes. Hundreds of millions sustain broken wings and legs from rough handling, and millions die from the stress of the journey.

At the slaughterhouse, their legs are forced into shackles, their throats are cut, and they’re immersed in scalding-hot water to remove their feathers. Because they have no federal legal protection (birds are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act), almost all chickens are still conscious when their throats are cut, and many are literally scalded to death in the feather-removal tanks after missing the throat cutter.

You can help end this cruelty. Order PETA’s free vegan starter kit, and we’ll send you tips and recipes to help you remove chickens and other animals from your diet today.

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